Elephant gets new prosthetic leg

TEMERLOH, Malaysia - A company's kind act in providing a prosthetic limb for female elephant Seledang has enabled the animal to roam freely again within the gated area of the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre, here.

The 7-year-old's left foreleg was severed at the ankle after it was caught in a wire mesh, here, a year ago. It was discovered by a plantation worker, who alerted the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

Head of Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre Nasharudin Othman said they had fitted Seledang with a prosthetic leg but after more than a year, it was found to be unsuitable. He said Seledang's leg had grown bigger and a more comfortable artificial limb was needed.

Nasharudin said the company, an international shoe manufacturer based in Kuala Lumpur, had offered the help as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. He said the company had helped Perhilitan save the cost of buying a new prosthetic leg, which cost more than RM20,000.

He said the company would examine Seledang's prosthetic leg soon to make minor adjustments.

"After wearing the prosthetic leg for a few weeks, Seledang kept dislodging it as it was uncomfortable.

"The company said it would examine Seledang's artificial leg to make the necessary changes."

Nasharudin said it was the first time a local elephant had been fitted with a prosthetic leg as compared with Thailand and Myanmar, where the use of prosthetic legs among elephants was common because of accidents.

Seledang is one of 10 elephants, aged between 1 and 7, under the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre's young elephant management programme, which is supported by Perhilitan. It is aimed at protecting animals that are separated from their herd.

"Sometimes, they are found stranded in forests or oil palm plantations in Pahang, Perak and Terengganu," Nasharudin said.

Under the programme, the young elephants are fed twice a day and allowed to roam for three to four hours within the 1ha electric-gated area, under the close monitoring of Perhilitan staff.

When the animals reach the age of 4 or 5, they are released into the forests, either in groups or pairs.

"Since the Kuala Gandah centre was set up in 1985, we have released six adult elephants into Taman Negara's forest reserve," said Nasharudin. "This is important as it allows the animals to live in their natural habitat."

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